THE PLACE OF LAW AND GRACE
William Andrew Dillard
Parson to Person
Oil and water do not mix. But, they would mix before law and grace would do so. A question was posed about Exodus 23:3, 6, “Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause,” and “Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause.” Does this mean that poor people should be exempt from any law based on their socio-economic status? Following is my reply.
It is my studied opinion that Israel is here commanded to be “straight shooters” under the terms of the Mosaic Law. That is, the poor man was not to be excused simply because he was poor, and the judgment against him was definitely not to be skewed in his disfavor. Now consider contextual meaning as well.
These verses are the initiation of Law to Israel, the covenant people of God. It was vitally important that they learn (and we as well from them) the difference between sin and righteousness, and just how completely righteous God is and how completely sinful man is. This law then became our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, and to His grace, Paul argues in Galatians 3:24-25.
However, the law and the prophets were until John (the Baptist) Luke 16:16. Jesus said they must be fulfilled, Luke 24:44, and He did so according to Matthew 5:18; Col. 2:14-17. The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came to us by Christ Jesus, John 1:17. Grace does not mean that the law was not righteous, quite the contrary. Covenants may change, but principles do not.
Law is Law! It is commandment plus penalty. If either is absent, the law is not in play. It cannot be injected with anything else and still be law. But, it is recognized that some cases tried by the medium of courts of law may either merit or demand mercy. But, when mercy is injected, it negates law and creates grace. Grace is what Jesus is all about. He as The God-man met each and every demand of Law. He fulfilled it to the very jot and tittle, and offers to us not the punishment of law which we deserve, (and by which God’s standard will always remain) but, His own righteousness by grace through faith.
Moreover, just as the law cannot be injected with anything else and remain law, so it is with grace. It is ludicrous to seek to maintain grace through law. This is the trouble the churches of Galatia got into, and which Paul addressed in his epistle by their name. After all, the law was not given to righteous people, but for sinners. By it, they could understand their lost condition, and their inability to do anything about it except through grace.
That mercy and grace should rule whenever possible among the affairs of men is underscored repeatedly in Jesus’ teachings, especially in Matthew 18:21-3